Today's Big Idea for Columbia's next 50 Years is mixed use development. Insofar as it is a good thing and needs to be a facet of the new town for the next 50 years. In fact, that's my first suggestion: get rid of New Town Zoning. Current zoning profiles in Columbia can be captured under existing County guidelines and definitions, or new definitions can be created.
Recently I've read with great interest a Master's Thesis from a student at UMBC which proposed putting 1,000 new units into the Oakland Mills Village Center to make the OMVC more viable. While I'm not sure that the OMVC can handle that many more units without massive infrastructure changes, I do believe that there needs to be more mixed use development at all Columbia village centers. That means a mixture of commercial space, retail space, and housing. In the case of the village centers, higher density housing would be more appropriate.
How many residential units should be built? My answer: however many is needed to make each village center independently economically viable. About ten years ago in Oakland Mills, we on the village board believed that number to be 250. I am sure the number would change from village to village.
Can we attract new residents? Let's put it this way. Baltimore and Washington are both enjoying success in attracting new residents to those cities? Other than jobs a plenty, do those cities have substantial advantages over Columbia? Yeah, thought you wouldn't think so either. So for brand new, amazing housing in a vibrant area? Yeah, Columbia should be able to attract people.
But a key part of that is jobs. Which is why there needs to be more employment centers developed within Columbia's environs-- definitely at the village centers as well as in the infamous "GEDS" (that's Gateway, Dobbin and Snowden to you normal people) part of Columbia. If Columbia wants to attract 10,000 new residents, it also needs to attract 7,500 jobs.
And incidentally, how about this one: create an 11th Columbia village in the Columbia Gateway area? Gateway is a great area for commercial development but perhaps an industrial park or two could become a couple of town home developments, condos and apartments? It might be a small village in terms of residents, but a big one in terms of commercial space and the availability of jobs. Residences there ought to be in high demand.
Tomorrow: Affordability! Not a bad segue.
Let's be careful out there.